Mum facing €2,500 back-to-school bill for 'free' education
PARENTS are bracing themselves for costly back-to-school expenses that are set to hit family finances heavily. One mum-of-three told the Herald that she is facing a €2,500 back-to-school bill, which will cover an iPad for her daughter, amongst other costs.
Andrea Dunne, from Ashford in Co Wicklow, has three children, Chloe (7), Keela (12) and Nicole (15).
"Our back-to-school bill is crazy," she told the Herald.
"We've had to spread it out over the year to manage it. Every time I see something on sale or on offer that I know they'll need I just grab it. Education is not free," she said.
Her middle child, Keela, will start secondary school this term and she has been told that she must have an iPad for her lessons.
The expense for her two eldest daughters is also made worse by a €650 bill for their bus tickets - though they live around three miles from the school.
Andrea works in a Montessori during term time and her husband works full-time, so she knows they are in a better situation than most.
"Imagine the families who have twins going into first year or are out of work," she said.
When her eldest child started secondary school, the family was able to avail of a book rental scheme but now they have no option except to purchase an iPad.
"The Government has a lot to do [to drive down costs] and they need to look at regulating iPads and things like that.
"Even if they were subsidised or you had the option to rent them from the school, which I'm sure will also cost a fortune.
"It cost us €500 before I had to buy her journals or copies or anything else," she added.
"I don't know if it will bring her any benefit, we'll have to wait and see."
Local shops supply the branded uniforms for the secondary school and they run a club that people can pay off the cost of the uniform throughout the year.
Her youngest attends a primary school that wears a generic uniform.
"I spent around €200 on that because I find that she is too hard-wearing for the cheaper ones," Andrea explained.
"Like any other parent I don't want my kids going to school without something they need. I'll just have to watch what we spend for the next month," she continued.
Also added to the bill is a small voluntary contribution for the secondary school which comes in at €20 per family but that won't have to be paid until later in the year.
Students are also required to wear the school coat, which costs €50.
The three girls also need sports clothes, socks, bags and everything else that comes with being a student she said. The family has been forced to cut back on their other spending.
Andrea was speaking as Barnardos launched their annual school costs survey yesterday.
The charity has said that the use of digital technology in the classroom must be regulated as the current ad-hoc approach was "letting parents down" and creating inequalities.
It also called for the 23pc VAT rate for eBooks be removed to reflect that regular textbooks are VAT free. In a detailed report, the charity also claimed that it would cost the state just €27m to make school transport free for all pupils.
Mums like Andrea are faced with a fee of €325 at the moment for secondary school buses, while it costs €100 for a primary school pupil to get the bus, according to Barnardos. The survey, in its tenth year, found that uniform costs and schoolbooks topped the list as the most expensive items.
The average cost of sending a child into first year came in at €785. It costs €365 to send a child to senior infants the survey revealed.